This is one of those threads I know starting a lot of folks are going to hurl nasty things my way (lol), but bring it on! :)
I've avoided the Olive Garden like the plague forever. Why? Chefs on television and foodie forums. I've always heard the same thing. "An Italian restaurant chain that says Americans can't handle garlic. Insane!"
I remember an episode of Simply Ming where he had a guest chef on and they talked about when they were young and just got out of culinary school, and this chain was starting, Olive Garden and they almost went there until they heard about a no-garlic and very very little garlic rule. Ming even said while nudging his buddy with an elbow "We dodged that bullet, didn't we?" And they both chuckled and went "whew!"
And I've heard similiar things here and elsewhere. Then, lately, I've heard from some relatives and a friend that it's pretty good. Well, I figured bad palettes they must have. And then I realized I was making THAT ultimate mistake. Not trying it out and making my own decision.
So I had lunch there yesterday with my brother and .... I enjoyed it! That's right. It was quite good. More over, the so called "vanilla-ing" and "down playing" of garlic and such. Uh-uh. Absolutely the opposite!
Had an appetizer that was basically a crostini made of grilled flatbread with cheese, diced tomatoes, basil and garlic. Plenty of garlic. Yum.
Then did the soup and salad and breadsticks deal. The breadsticks were loaded with garlic. The first soup had garlic in it. The salad had whole (deseeded and devaned) Anaheim green chiles in it. The second bowl of soup was incredibly hot. My brother thought it was in the sausage, I said nope it's the actual broth. Turned out to be *lots* of ground red pepper flakes.
And all of it was very good. Too good; we both left there having feeling a tad bloated and over-eating. So ....
All of this Olive Garden sucks because no garlic, no spice, taking it all down? Either they've radically changed their menu and cooking or ... well, I'm glad I used my head (and stomach) and tried it out for myself instead of continuing my avoidance of it because of all I've heard from chefs and foodies. Again, first time there and they hit you in the face with it all. So, did they change things and bring it up to real tastes? Or for some reason have I been listening to a bunch of bull all this time? Or, do some of you still think -- from hearing things or from your experience -- that OG sucks?
All I know is I'll go back to it again for sure.